More thoughts on the Scenario Designers Guide

Jim McLeod

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Its a Shame!

a Shame that there are no books about ASL.
Anybody knows how much nonsense books about exotical
hobbies are placed in the bookshopshelves.
Foolish ones about any origami, ancient cars , or even
chess-puzzles. Isn't it in a public interest to show how
solving a self-stalemate in 9 ?
How about 'ASL for dummies', 'Zen or the art of playing ASL'
'The great Book of Oranizing ASL-Counters'...
:hush:
IMO, ASL simply does not have the number of players required to support something like you suggest.

JMO.
 

Michael Dorosh

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IMO, ASL simply does not have the number of players required to support something like you suggest.

JMO.
That's not a factor. If you take a look at Mark's book, you'll note he's done it via lulu.com - print on demand, meaning no minimum print run. Anyone can get published there, and there is no overhead. All you need is a word processing program with the ability to output into pdf format, an email address, and a credit card, and you can publish your book without paying a cent to do it.
 

Jo.B

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IMO, ASL simply does not have the number of players required to support something like you suggest.

JMO.

one Book about Diplomaty Boargame by the Author of the game.

Magic The Gathering Advanced Strategy Guide: For Advanced and Expert Magic

Naval Wargames (World War I and World War II) (Hardcover)

The Book of Medieval Wargames (Paperback)

Harpoon Naval Review 1994 (Harpoon naval wargame)

LEGION - WARGAME RULES FOR ANCIENT BATTLE ON THE GRAND TACTICAL SCALE (Paperback)

The Armchair General: Wargames with Historical Miniatures (Paperback)

How to Make Wargames Terrain by Nigel Stillman (Hardcover - 1996)

Wargame Design: The History, Production, and Use of Conflict Simulation Games
(Strategy & tactics staff study) by Richard H. Berg (Hardcover - Oct 1981)


Galactic War with Four Realistic Space Wargames (Paperback)

The Art of Wargaming: A Guide for Professionals and Hobbyists (Hardcover)
7 Books about Wargaming by Peter P Perla

How to sell your wargame design (Unknown Binding)

WARGAME DESIGN THE HISTORY, STUDY AND USE OF CONFLICT SIMULATION GAMES (Hardcover)

Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies

Dungeon Master For Dummies (for the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game)

Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic by

Little Wars by H.G. Wells, Gary Gygax,

Floor Games (Paperback) by H.G. Wells (Author)

Connection Games: Variations on a Theme (Paperback)


but no Book about the 'Eton Wall Game'
so is ASL as exotic like the Eton Wall Game ?

jo
 

Michael Dorosh

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Certainly it is not "The ultimate toolset for the ultimate tactical WW2 wargaming" .
That being said... IT IS a excellent guideline on BASIC scenario design concepts. What you are asking for is a very hard thing to define. About 8 years ago, I did and article for CH on scenario design providing the whys and wherefores of an associated scenario. While my article was shorter, it covered just about the same concepts as Mark covered. There are so many factors in scenario design not covered that would influance SSRs, that to cover them all would basically be reprinting every SSR that has ever been used. For that just read some SSR of published scenarios to get the occassional assistance required to flesh out a basic scenario.
I've gone ahead and posted my review of the book at the hosting site (lulu.com). - http://www.lulu.com/content/372660 I'll reproduce my comments here and provide some amplification.

It would be hard to live up to the subtitle of this book; it is not ultimate and is not a toolset as claimed. More correctly, it is a camouflaged precis of common sense. As a first effort, the work shows promise, but the author will need to abandon his unabashed love for the game and adopt a neutral tone to be taken seriously.

Look

The text is sensibly laid out in two columns though oddly is not justified, perhaps a nod to early wargaming magazines. Another nod are the black and white renderings of wartime photos. If they are meant to evoke Rodger MacGowan's artwork of the great wargaming titles (such as Squad Leader), it fails. The images are poor and appear as cheap pixelated copies. The text is large, giving less content, but paper is high contrast and easy to read.

There is no index and little relief from the text, broken up only by stark images, 20 in all, and 4 stock clip art drawings. One photo appears to have been taken from my own website at www.canadiansoldiers.com, though as artistic renderings, none of the photos are actually identified, captioned or credited.

The lack of appropriate supporting imagery is evidence that the book was not sanctioned by any copyright holder of counter artwork. A shame, as an illustrated walk through of the process would have been interesting. None appears.

Content

The constant attempts to sell the game seem like a means of stretching the content to 72 pages. Don't most scenario designers own the game already? The opening pages read like bad propaganda filled with platitudes. Entire paragraphs are devoted to matters of common sense and are obvious filler, such as the para listing the theatres of World War II.

The book includes seven chapters, on theory, sources, map layout, order of battle, miscellany, playtesting and publishing.

Finally, halfway down page 8, the aim of the book is given - “to help designers avoid certain pitfalls and problems that often occur, to allow designers to benefit from the experiences of those who have gone before them, and to make the whole idea...of ASL scenario design a lot less intimidating.” However, only about 40 pages of text are devoted to actual scenario design. There are some good tips, most of which are common sense. The initial discussion of historical accuracy and playability is quite useful, for example.

What is noticeably lacking is a template or checklist of scenario elements despite the author's admonition on page 51 to be on the lookout for missing scenario elements. No hint of how to format for a publisher is given.

Vague advice on sources appears; some useful sources - Google Earth, for example - are not mentioned at all.

Appendices

The three appendices are a collection of SSRs and VCs from the work of other designers without credit being given them. Many free scenarios are available online (MMP and VFTT websites come to mind) so personally reviewing scenarios should not be a problem for anyone likely to want this book, making the appendices seem like wasted effort. Marketing for the book indicates “two free scenarios”, a meaningless gimmick given they are mentioned directly in the contents as well as the subject of an appendix. The two scenarios don't seem so much an added treat as an added justification for the cover price of 20 dollars for 72 b&w pages. The scenarios use a unique non-ASL layout with no explanation of why.

Unattractive physically and only marginally useful to ASL scenario designers. Few examples and no relevant illustrations make the text all seem very vague and disconnected. A walkthrough of the process would have been more interesting than pages of obvious filler material.
I'll expand on this a bit - I was limited to 3700 characters in my lulu review.

The images do nothing to support the text; not only are they poorly done, but they're irrelevant. Using the actual photos with captions might at least have made them interesting, even if they remained irrelevant. For the discussion on terrain, for example, why not illustrate the text with a scan of portions of an actual terrain map, or show an aerial photo? Thousands if not millions of Second World War images on the internet are now copyright free due to age and status (U.S. government images, for example, are free for using) and would have been more relevant to the text than grainy stock footage of anonymous soldiers. The photo used from my website is actually a DND colour photograph in beautiful detail; nothing was gained by the attempt to artistically treat it - moreover, it has nothing to do with scenario design.

Filler material is conspicuous - the paragraph describing the various theatres of the Second World War was less an attempt to provide useful information to the reader than it was another uninspired attempt to sell the game to someone who in all likelihood already owns it. More useful would have been a chart listing the theatres and participating nationalities, with dates of participation, if this was really felt to be necessary. As it is, the paragraph on how many theatres can be portrayed in ASL is wasted space.

An entire page is wasted in the intro selling the reader on the idea that ASL is popular and that “Because ASL is scenario based...it offers would-be scenario designers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse themselves in the game.” I'm not even sure what this is supposed to mean; because ASL has scenarios, it allows those who make the scenaros the opportunity to immerse themselves in the game? Don't you do that by playing it? The opening pages read like a bad Joseph Goebbels speech, filled with platitudes; by page eight I was singing the words as the melody of the Horst Wesel Song ran through my head. An entire paragraph is wasted telling the reader that there are people - shocking as it is - that don't like every single scenario printed for ASL, and therefore, more are required. The chapter concludes with another platitude, telling the reader that in order to design ASL scenarios you have to have “the desire to immerse yourself in the world of ASL.” Again, what is meant is never explained. A simple “Heil, ASL” would have sufficed. The last sentence “This guide will help show you how” is a false prophesy then, as immersing one's self in the world of ASL brings on visions of a symbiotic relationship with one's rulebook, or something equally messy. How about we just play the game and not worry so much about "immersing" ourselves? Coupled with the assertion that "most ASL players" are "addicted" ASL comes off sounding less like a harmless pastime than it does a dangerous cult.

There is an entire chapter devoted to getting a scenario published, but nothing is said about how to format your scenario for submission to a publisher. Most references on publishing books mention this; at the very least the advice is given to approach the publisher and request a style sheet. There is no mention of this at all in the guide.

The admonition on page 51 to have playtesters ensure all components are present rings a bit hollow given that the book itself never defines the essential components of a scenario. The book doesn't know if it is writing for rank amateurs or experiences ASL players. Given the attempts to sell the game to the buyer in the opening pages, why not then give a newcomer's guide to scenario format and layout? The "free" scenarios use terminology not found on an ASL scenario card - "aftermath" becomes "postscript" but no discussion of copyright or why the author made these changes is given. The book is very schizophrenic in what it expects the reader to already know, and consequently just who the book is intended for is hard to discern.

There were some useful examples - the vignette about reading the unit history and researching Panzerfaust usage in a particular action was enlightening. I'd have liked to have seen a start-to-finish examination of the process - would have been more interesting than reading over and over that "ASL is the best tactical board wargame ever" - a subjective opinion not shared unanimously throughout the wargaming community - ask any Panzer Grenadier or ATS fan.

I think the book would benefit by interviews with actual scenario designers; rather than a sermon from the mount, the author would have been well served to elicit other opinions and synthesize them into something more useful. Pete Shelling is mentioned in passing for his design of one particular scenario - I've seen Pete's comments on scenario design here on the forum, more examples of specific design choices would have been most welcome in the book rather than vague generalities.

The appendices, as Steve points out, are pointless given that dozens of free scenarios exist for any player to go and review, in addition to the ones that come with ASL to begin with (I can't see anyone not owning ASL buying this book). Would have been more useful to take specific examples of SSRs and explore the real-world research that was done to come up with them in the first place. What's presented is merely a laundry list.

Overall, an okay first effort, but there are no real tools, and as Steve points out, not the be-all end-all as is claimed. Most of the book is common sense, and nothing you couldn't find out by posting once or twice on these forums and asking specific questions.

As suggestions for improvement, I'd say pick a clear focus of who the intended audience is, provide more specific examples, get images that actually support the text, drop the filler, stop writing a love letter to ASL, and provide a step-by-step example, from researching to preparing a draft for publication - with a checklist of scenario components.
 

MrP

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A touch harsh review I feel - I liked the guide, it's like all ASL publications, ideal pick up and put down, dip in and out of, reading material. I say kudos to Mark for getting out of his tub of counters and doing it.
 

Michael Dorosh

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A touch harsh review I feel - I liked the guide, it's like all ASL publications, ideal pick up and put down, dip in and out of, reading material. I say kudos to Mark for getting out of his tub of counters and doing it.
So you liked the book because it doesn't weigh much and it stops you from staring at your feet when you're in the bathroom?

Sounds like a ringing endorsement for the back cover of the 2nd Edition.

When my book for Jo is complete, I'll knock you up looking for a review, too...

:paperbag:

Or are you saying that if it has "ASL" you'll blindly shell out just to have it? Because I have a few rolls of ASL toilet paper waiting to go on ebay, right after I sell my ASL bandaids and a couple pairs of ASL socks - I can give you a bulk discount if you write me RIGHT NOW - Paypal accepted, naturally.
 
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MrP

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Or are you saying that if it has "ASL" you'll blindly shell out just to have it? Because I have a few rolls of ASL toilet paper waiting to go on ebay, right after I sell my ASL bandaids and a couple pairs of ASL socks - I can give you a bulk discount if you write me RIGHT NOW - Paypal accepted, naturally.
How much do you want for it Michael? Don't tell anyone else it's for sale or I'll have to pay more!

My point was only that I actually quite like it, for all its garishishness and its "laundry list" features - I think of them as a way to stop me from looking through a million scenario cards, 95% of which all have the same SSRs. And (whether you asked facetiously or not), I do rate ASL material as good if "it doesn't weigh much and it stops you from staring at your feet when you're in the bathroom". that's why I like the Journals and annuals, bite size chunks to read :) Although I feel uncomfortable using bite-sized and bathroom in the same sentence......

I also stand by my kudos to Mark bit - not sure if you think he's done something worthwhile here or not?
 

Michael Dorosh

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How much do you want for it Michael? Don't tell anyone else it's for sale or I'll have to pay more!

My point was only that I actually quite like it, for all its garishishness and its "laundry list" features - I think of them as a way to stop me from looking through a million scenario cards, 95% of which all have the same SSRs. And (whether you asked facetiously or not), I do rate ASL material as good if "it doesn't weigh much and it stops you from staring at your feet when you're in the bathroom". that's why I like the Journals and annuals, bite size chunks to read :) Although I feel uncomfortable using bite-sized and bathroom in the same sentence......

I also stand by my kudos to Mark bit - not sure if you think he's done something worthwhile here or not?
Don't get me wrong - we're all just expressing our opinions here, yours is perfectly valid. I was just curious what value you personally got, and your expanded answer tells me that, so thanks for that.

Worthwhile? Not for 20 dollars. It is an act of bravery, generally speaking, to put one's self "out there" and as a first effort, it's a good try. There are some useful sections of the book, and I do mention them in my review. In all honesty? Given Mark's level of experience with the system and the community, I think he's capable of a much better product. He doesn't need to sell ASL to people who already own it. Not only is he writing love letters to ASL, but now, according to you, he's bathing with his counters. I like a good love story as much as the next guy, but come on... :D
 

Michael Dorosh

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Anyway, my feeling is that a good book review will help a prospective buyer decide if the book is suited for him or not, or value for the money. Hopefully a dissenting opinion will help people make a more informed choice. The more opinions the better that will be, so your opinion is certainly part of the process.

From your comments, I get the feeling you consider the book appropriate as light reading. As to its intended purpose - and the way it is marketed - do you feel it succeeds? In other words, is it the "ultimate toolset"? That's how it's being sold. If it was being marketed as ASL FOR THE CRAPPER I think my review would be much more positive.
 

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It is a shame to see what Michael Dorosh has done. His unremittingly antagonistic attitude towards me on this forum, in which he has attacked or challenged me at every single opportunity, suggests that he could not even approach a review of something I have written with anything remotely resembling objectivity. He just set out to do a hatchet job.

Luckily, an antidote is available. The latest issue (#144) of Fire & Movement, the hobby's main wargaming review magazine, just came out with a review of the Scenario Designers Guide by an objective reviewer who does not even know me. I was able to see it for the first time at Origins this weekend. I recommend that interested people read this review (which, I should note, is very positive).

You can get it at: https://www.decisiongames.com/decision_orders.htm
 

wrongway149

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It is a shame to see what Michael Dorosh has done. His unremittingly antagonistic attitude towards me on this forum, in which he has attacked or challenged me at every single opportunity, suggests that he could not even approach a review of something I have written with anything remotely resembling objectivity. He just set out to do a hatchet job.

Luckily, an antidote is available. The latest issue (#144) of Fire & Movement, the hobby's main wargaming review magazine, just came out with a review of the Scenario Designers Guide by an objective reviewer who does not even know me. I was able to see it for the first time at Origins this weekend. I recommend that interested people read this review (which, I should note, is very positive).

You can get it at: https://www.decisiongames.com/decision_orders.htm
Would you recommend it if it, too, were not positive?
 

Michael Dorosh

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Mark is very skilled this. It would be foolish for him not to let his work simply speak for itself. If he can get one of his buddies at F&M (did he receive a complimentary copy, incidentally) to defend the book for him, I agree that is the best antidote for my unflattering review. Mark would be foolish to defend his work on any of the points I raised, and knows it. And naturally, the F&M review will not address any of the valid concerns I've raised (or those raised to me in PMs and emails by other dis-satisfied customers who have agreed with my comments.)

I'll reiterate my opinion - it's a good first effort that doesn't quite reach the objective. If others enjoy it more than I did, I obviously have no quarrel with them. I also wonder if the F&M reviewer has tried to use the book as a "toolset" to design a scenario with.

EDITED - comments in navy blue are unprofessional; I withdraw them but leave them in the thread as evidence that they were here.
 
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Pitman

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F&M is published by Decision Games, run by Christopher Cummins and Ty Bomba, the latter of whom thinks I am the devil incarnate. So I have no "buddies" at F&M. I already stated that I did not know the reviewer. Nobody, at Decision Games or elsewhere, has asked me for a review copy. I had no idea there even was a review until last week, when someone told me about it. I never saw it until this past Thursday.

So Michael Dorosh's attempts to cast aspersions are highly misguided. Though, given his track record of unremitting antagonism and attacks against me dating back a very long time, not surprising.
 

wrongway149

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F&M is published by Decision Games, run by Christopher Cummins and Ty Bomba, the latter of whom thinks I am the devil incarnate. So I have no "buddies" at F&M. I already stated that I did not know the reviewer. Nobody, at Decision Games or elsewhere, has asked me for a review copy. I had no idea there even was a review until last week, when someone told me about it. I never saw it until this past Thursday.

So Michael Dorosh's attempts to cast aspersions are highly misguided. Though, given his track record of unremitting antagonism and attacks against me dating back a very long time, not surprising.
Are Cummins and Bomba scenario designers, or even ASL players? If not, how credible is their opinion, really?
 

Pitman

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They are the publishers, not the review writer. They did not offer an opinion on the guide. My point was to respond to Dorosh's nasty aspersion that somehow a positive review of my guide was published because I was "buddies" with the folks there.
 

Michael Dorosh

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You're right, Mark, that was unprofessional of me to suggest. I sincerely apologize for insinuating that the review was somehow not above board.

I'll look forward to reading the copy of F&M. My other points still stand, however.
 
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